On a recent staff call, after we talked about the blood, sweat, and tears our team shed during Military Appreciation Month, our COO Paul Cucinotta encouraged all of us to use the long Memorial Day Weekend to catch our breath before launching our next wave of gratitude and impact across the country.
I reflected on those words and the impact we’ve had in numerous states over the past several weeks and knew that while it’s important to occasionally take pause and appreciate what’s been accomplished, the opportunity could only be but a brief one. We choose to press on because our men and women in uniform can’t stop.
Even as President Biden announced the final drawdown of troops from Afghanistan by 9/11 and the COVID pandemic wanes, our military and first responders will continue to serve and protect our nation and our communities. Their duties don’t diminish; their missions remain the same.
As I type these words, Marine Expeditionary Forces, Army Special Forces, Air Force Squadrons, Navy ships on all seven seas, and National Guardsmen are and will continue to be deployed by the tens of thousands around the world fighting the Global War on Terrorism and enduring extended separations from their loved ones.
In addition, 2.3 million sworn police officers, firefighters, and EMTs, as well as millions of doctors and nurses in harsh conditions here on the homefront, will patrol our neighborhoods, protect our streets, and save thousands of lives daily.
The fact is these men and women need Operation Gratitude and YOUR support more than ever.
We can’t catch our breath for long, because the stakes are even higher now. Over the past three years we have made great strides in our mission to forge strong bonds and build bridges between civilians and those who serve. In the process, we also strengthened communities that needed it most.
Operation Gratitude is gaining momentum; we are growing by the day and our movement is taking hold in cities and towns across the country. We have a responsibility now to stay the course and build on that momentum so every hero feels appreciated, understood, and connected to their communities. Instead of catching our breath, we’re making every moment count.
You — our volunteers and supporters — have stepped up to meet every challenge with us. You rarely took time to catch your breath either, and it shows in the sheer magnitude of the impact we have made. To put it in perspective, Operation Gratitude impacted 2 million heroes in our first 15 years of existence. Over the past three years we have impacted 1.3 million more.
When I think about your actions over the past 15 months in particular — amidst a global pandemic — it takes my breath away. More Americans are joining our movement each week and our long-standing volunteers continue to do more, not less, during a very challenging time for our country. This is evidenced in the significant increase in the number of handmade items thoughtfully crafted by volunteers nationwide during our 2021 Vietnam Veteran Paracord Challenge. It’s further backed by the enthusiasm of those who also stepped up to take part in our R.E.D. Scarf Challenge, now underway.
In total, you crafted nearly 28,000 paracord bracelets in just three weeks and knitted or crocheted almost 1,900 red, white, and blue scarves over the same period of time. And, as our big R.E.D. Scarf Challenge wraps up, we are anticipating receiving thousands more!
Now let me tell you exactly how those scarves will impact our deployed troops in the coming weeks. After our volunteers in California lovingly sort, roll, and prepare them for an assembly day, hundreds of volunteers in Washington DC and Los Angeles will include them in care packages that will, in turn, be delivered to 20,000 individual service members in dozens of countries and on U.S. Naval ships abroad.
To ensure our deployed troops celebrate Christmas in July, we need your help in the coming days to ship 20,000 care packages overseas. Please consider donating $15 to ship one, $45 to ship three, $75 to ship five, or $150 to ship 10.
As we all look forward to Independence Day and a summer full of connections and reunions with our families and friends, let’s not forget those opportunities are still on hold for thousands of service men and women in harm’s way. I know many of us will get a chance to inhale and exhale normally during a well-deserved break in the next few months. Once we’ve all had a chance to catch our breath, let’s get back in the fight to support the brave men and women who won’t enjoy that luxury for the foreseeable future.